GIVING WITH ALL YOUR HEART

Kohl’s Department store is airing a commercial, “Giving with All Your Heart.” It is the story of a lonely, isolated, bored little girl, who strikes up a friendship, through her window, with an elderly woman across the way.  The question posed is, “Will you be my friend?”  It is easy to see that the hearts of these two are fully engaged.  They are each offering warmth and love and regard for each other—the best gift that anyone can offer or receive.

I love buying or making gifts for others, and I sorrow that my list has dwindled drastically through the years.  Many family members are gone, and old friends my age have decided mutually that we can no longer afford it, so we have settled for loving one another over the phone.  I keep my eyes open all year for gifts that will make loved ones smile.  I also listen carefully to find what they are longing for.  I spent hours yesterday afternoon wrapping and beautifying my packages.  O, I know gift bags are now the thing, but a beautiful package is part of the gift, and says, “I really do value you.”

          Christmas is a time for giving.  That’s really what Christmas is all about, but it is not as simple as it sounds.  This year, in particular, a good deal of our shopping is done online.  I’m not really an online shopper—for I like to see and handle the things I buy, before I put my money down.  So, last week I went to a department store for the first time since February.  I was excited to go, but somewhat disappointed in what I found.  I went looking for pretty things, even sort of dressy things, but mostly I found sweatshirts, t-shirts, and laid-back stuff. Often, when we don’t find what we want immediately, stress and time limitation tempt us into buying just anything.

When it comes to gift giving, it is easy to give cash, gift cards, or something trendy.  However, that is not the hallmark of giving from the heart, but of obligation.  Giving from the heart means making someone else a priority.

There has been an example of that kind of giving setting on my buffet for forty-five years.  My first Christmas and birthday in Brussels, in 1975, was difficult for me.  Having been in country for less than four months, I was just beginning to adjust to a new life.  Then Christmas loomed on the horizon, and I didn’t know how I would survive without my family. 

One day, shopping with my roommate, I fell in love with a little “English Royal Crown Derby” bone china bird.  He is blue, white and gold, not three inches long from bill to tail. I oohed and aahed and longed for that little beauty, but English Royal Crown anything was too expensive for a rooky missionary, so I reluctantly left him behind.  Imagine my surprise and joy when I opened that small package on my birthday, three days after Christmas, and found that delicate little bird.  My roommate didn’t have any more money than I had—it was a gift from the heart. 

Giving from the heart means putting thought and effort behind the gift.  It really is the thought that counts.  We need a mind with a heart.  We need to let our feelings shine through, and guide us to giving something special, and “special” doesn’t necessarily mean grand and expensive. Give because you want to.  Give out of an expression deep within. That’s what my roommate did.

Scientific studies show that giving from the heart without strings attached or expecting something in return results in the release of hormones such as Oxytocin, also known as the “cuddle hormone.” The ability to give freely produces in us a sense of health and happiness and overall well being.  In contrast, giving with expectations of getting something in return can leave us suffering pain, stress and feelings of separation.

Giving with all your heart means giving with love.

That’s what God did.  Love is the basic substance of God.  “God so loved that He gave His only son,” the first Christmas gift.  And Jesus gave His life, so that I might have the gift of life.  What marvelous examples in loving and giving!

Luke 10:27 tells us what we may do to show our gratitude, “…you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.”  If we love God that way, then we belong to Him completely.

Loving God and loving our neighbor is basic to our existence.  Neighbors are not always easy to love, but God said we are to love even our enemies.  Real love values the differences, and uniqueness of others.  We talk about, sing about, and write about love all the time, but how do we love our neighbor as ourselves? 

We love our neighbor by giving of ourselves.  We give our time, our energy, our help, our substance, and our love to those who are hurting and in need.  

In Matthew 25:40, Jesus said, “…in as much as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to me.” In a very real way, every small act of service, kindness, thoughtfulness, and caring that we do for someone else is an act of loving God.

This Christmas I want to give as God gives.  I want to give with all my heart both to God and to others.  Instead of stress, frustration, and depleted energy, I want to experience the JOY OF GIVING!

REMEMBER, THE SUN WILL COME OUT TOMORROW!

 

EENY MENY MINY MOE

When I was a little girl, we had a flock of chickens (Rhode Island Reds) and one very big, very mean rooster.  The chickens were not free range, but the rooster thought he was.  He always found a way to free himself from the chicken pen, and he ranged wherever he chose.  Every time I walked out the kitchen door, that rooster was waiting for me.  Squawking and flapping his ugly red wings, he swooped down on me pecking at my tender little ankles.  I hated that bird!!!

eeny-meny-miny-moe-2In spite of the rooster, raising chickens had its benefits.  We always had fresh eggs and, from time to time, fried chicken or chicken and dumplings.  I will not bother you with the gross details of how my mother killed and butchered the chicken.  Suffice it to say, every bite was scrumptious.

But that was not the end of the benefits.  The chickens had to eat, and they would never be satisfied with a few bugs and an odd worm here and there.  They needed maize; the kind of feed that produces good eggs.  Maize is dried corn, which looks kind of like popcorn before it pops.  We ordered our maize from the local Feed and Seed Store.

At the appointed time that big flat bed truck rolled into our gravel driveway.   The driver hoisted me or my little sister, depending upon whose turn it was, onto the bed of the truck.  And there they were—great hundred pound bags of chicken feed – not burlap bags, mind you.  These bags were made of beautiful printed fabric, covered with little pink roses or purple pansies.  Sometimes the fabric was decorated with stripes or dots or even Disney characters.

eeny-meny-miny-moe-1 To my young eyes, they were bright and beautiful, and I could choose the one I liked the best, but there were so many to choose from.  Looking from sack to sack, and pointing with my finger I began the ritual.  “Eeny, Meeny, Miny, Moe.”  No, not that one!  I started over.  “Eeny, Meeny, Miny, Moe.”  Then I added to the rhyme.  “

Then I added to the rhyme.  “My mother told me to choose the very best one.”  Finally, the choice was made, and the sack was lowered to the ground.

It was a difficult and important choice for a seven year old, for when the chicken feed was used up, my magical Mama would open the seam on the sack and wash and iron the fabric and fashion a beautiful dress for me.  She always added ruffles or rick rack and other little embellishments.  No matter that the fabric was coarse, and the colors might fade, I donned that bright new dress with joy and wore it with great pride.

Just little sidelight – women made everything from dishrags to dresses out of printed feed sacks.  By 1942, an estimated three-million Americans wore at least one article of clothing made out of a feed sack.

eeny-meny-miny-moe-3I have made many choices in my eighty years on this earth – some of them mind-boggling —many of them life changing.  When I was five years old, I made the most important choice of my life.  I chose Jesus as my savior, and I have been choosing Him ever since.

We make choices every day.  Many choices are casual requiring little thought.  What will I wear—where will I go—what will I prepare for dinner?  Other, more difficult and important choices have to do with money or health or relationships.  Can I afford to buy this car?  Should I seek a second opinion?  What can I do to save my marriage?

However, the most crucial and demanding choice we will ever make concerns our relationship with God and how we will spend eternity.

You can worship at the altar of culture, education, entertainment, nature, or wealth.  This world offers many possibilities.  But there is only one God who offers life eternal.  He loves you and, according to John 15:16, “…He has chosen you…”

Now you have a choice to make.

Joshua 24:15 admonishes, “Choose this day whom you will serve.”

Deuteronomy 30:19 tells us, “Choose life so that you … will live.”

In Isaiah 7:15 we read, “Refuse evil and choose good.”

These are choices that everyone must make sooner or later.  Eeny, Meny, Miny, Moe won’t help you with these decisions.  These choices must come from a sincere heart – a heart that longs to know God.

You may be wrestling with a life changing decision today.  You have no idea what to do.  Choose Jesus.  He will shine His rays upon your confused mind and light up the darkness.

THE SUN WILL COME OUT TOMORROW

 

 

 

 

 

 

PRECIOUS IN HIS SIGHT

Before his illness, Cecil and I cuddled together on the sofa each evening after dinner. He loved to hear tales about my days in the ministry. One night I wept, as I shared a hurtful experience. Tender hearted Cecil wept with me wetting my neck and shoulder with his tears.

little girl Holding me close, he whispered, “You are so precious.”

Those sweet words turned everything inside me to mush, but at the same time I had an awful urge to laugh right out loud. No one, whom I could remember, had ever called me precious – sassy maybe, feisty, opinionated, pushy, perhaps even pretty or smart, but precious? Never! Oh, I know I was precious to my Mom and Dad, at least I hope I was, but they didn’t use that word.

I knew the word, though, even when I was little. When I was five and six years old, my pastor used to let me sing in the Sunday evening service. But by the time he was ready for me, I had already taken off my shoes in preparation for a nap. He always called me “Little Sister Clark.” So, “Little Sister Clark” padded barefoot up to the platform and sang. My favorite vintsong was “Jewels.”

Little children, little children,

Who love their Redeemer.

Are His jewels, PRECIOUS jewels.

His loved and His own.

In Sunday school, we also sang “…red and yellow, black and white. They are PRECIOUS in His sight. Jesus loves the little children…”

I knew the word. I understood that I was precious, whatever that meant. I figured it must be good, because Jesus loved me and I belonged to Him.

I finally found out that precious means something of value or high price, something highly esteemed or cherished, or something excessively refined or costly.

vintage girl 1We speak of precious metals, precious gems, and works of art by the Masters. The Hope Diamond is valued at $350,000,000.00, the 3,106 carat Cullinan Diamond at $400.000.000.00. It has been suggested that the country of France sell off the Mona Lisa, said to be worth $787,000,000.00, in order to pay their national debt.

It is not unusual for people to pay millions for some artifact to hang on a wall or display in a glass front case. To these people things are precious and money is not an issue.

However, there is something or someone far more precious than paintings and jewels. Cecil was right. I am precious! You are precious!

The Mona Lisa was created by the master painter, Leonardo de Vinci.

You were created by the Master of all masters, God Himself. He, who spoke the worlds into existence, formed you with his own hands. What a sculptor!

If the Mona Lisa is valued at $787,000,000.00, think of your value to the heart of God.

vintA precious thing is esteemed or cherished, and so also are you. In Zephaniah 3:17, we read, “He will rejoice over you with gladness. He will quiet you with His love. He will rejoice over you with singing.” Did you know, you make the heart of God glad? I, of all people, make the heart of God glad. Think of that!

Psalm 147:11 says, “The Lord takes pleasure in His people.” Just as you would stand before the Mona Lisa or the Hope diamond and admire the beauty and perfection, so God looks upon you and me, His creation, and He says, (Genesis 2:31) “What I did is good!” He takes pleasure in His work.

Now, I must not forget. A precious thing may also be extremely costly. In Matthew 13:45-46 we read of a merchant, who sold all he possessed in order to buy one beautiful pearl. But that’s nothing!

Think of what God did. He paid the ultimate price. He gave His only Son, Jesus, and Jesus gave His life to buy you back from sin and make you a member of His own family.

You are God’s most costly possession. You are of great value. You are highly esteemed. You are cherished, and God has paid a great ransom for you. You are a child of the King.

This wondrous truth ought to make you walk taller. There ought to be a lilt to your laughter, a twinkle in your eye, and a spring in your step.

All the lies the enemy has told you are just that. Lies! You are of value. You are special. You are going to make it, and God loves you!

retro phoneLook up! Morning has dawned, the sun is shining, and God is singing because of you!